IAN DERA LTD –– PRODUCT DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT

This page is in lieu of a blog. Over time it will become host to an archive of design doodles and concept explorations I've tinkered with over the years. They are not full-blown projects by any stretch of the imagination. They are not resolved nor are they comprehensive. They are merely a collection of visuals representing initial embodiments of ideas that at one time or another have crossed my mind. Like a good cup of tea, these ideas tend to brew for a while in the background and occasionally I get the spare time, motivation and energy to have a quick stab at working them up into something more tangible, meaningful and satisfying.

2011 –– ShowerSAVE

Encouraging shorter, more economical shower usage.

This idea is a simple if unresolved one which grew out of some scenario work I was doing on a project earlier that year around sustainability. It centres around a principle of water and energy conservation and utilising the metrics that we could potentially gather from digital shower systems.

 

Current digital showers primarily offer the capability to set flow rates and preferred water temperature and then save this as a handy user preset. With this concept I've tried to go one step further by introducing a clear feedback mechanism that encourages shorter, more economical shower usage. It's about behaviour change towards more environmentally conscious habit-forming. (As someone once quite rightly stated: "you can't manage what you can't measure"). Here, we're measuring, communicating and hopefully helping to 'manage' water consumption. It begins with a self-imposed or perhaps household-imposed 'water rationing allowance' or target. One might preset an appropriate 'allowance' (for want of a better word) of say 90 litres of water per shower or alternatively a time setting such as 8 minutes. These metrics are visualised and once the shower starts, they count down just like an old hour glass timer. In the example concept render an extravagant array of LEDs around the perimeter of the product indicate the relative time/water remaining (with the colour of the indicators also relating to the temperature of the water).

 

I don't feel that the shower by default should automatically turn off once the 'allowance' has been reached (if indeed one chooses to use this feature). This water/energy-conservation aid is intended as a 'soft guide' rather than a rigid, draconian measure or restriction –– the idea is just to make people a little more aware of how long/how much water they are using each time they shower.

 

I took the lozenge-shaped concept sketch into CAD in the end. The key feature of this lozenge design is the use of a large revolved LED array around the perimeter rather than utilising the LCD display. Aside from that it has a chrome frame and a seamless backprinted high gloss glass display. It is rather techy and masculine looking so I'd like to also do a softer, more approachable version, perhaps in a ceramic or corian-esque body. (The render shows the shower with 2 minutes 6 seconds/20.1 litres of water remaining).

 

The second part of this is all about using the information gathered. And as you might expect, there's an app for that. The digital shower has connectivity and through the associated app one can view all kinds of useful and informative consumption data much like you would with home energy monitors. I haven't worked all of this out but essentially it could log and track trends such as every household member's average water consumption levels and personal bests. Who consumes the most water? Who has saved the most? By day, by week, by month and by year? How much do these savings equate to financially? How does your household compare to similar households in the area? And much much more.

2010 –– Cycle, Wash & Work

Helping to make cycling an easy and convenient part of every day life.

This doodle looks to address my assumption that more commuters would consider cycling to work if shower or changing room facilities were available. It’s a simple idea for an initiative that aims to encourage cycling through facilitating the provision of local municipal and private facilities for commuting cyclists. For example, this might be at a local sports centre or private gym whereby one can pay an appropriately reduced

daily, weekly or monthly fee for use of the changing room facilities only.

 

The thinking was that it could bolt nicely onto something like the government’s Cycle to Work scheme, perhaps branded and promoted via Cycling England. (Cycling England now ceases to exist as a public body: April 2011).

 

In summary, the proposition would comprise a service that primarily connects commuting

cyclists with convenient and affordable shower

and changing room facilities; provide an informative cycling resource; reward commuting cyclists (in a manner of different ways); generate revenue for affiliates of the scheme; and promote healthier lifestyles and environmentally-friendlier behaviour. (It could of course equally apply to those who like to run to work but are lacking shower facilities). Here’s a streamlined storyboard I had put together communicating an example scenario.

2009 –– Mobile phone security

Developing product and service solutions to tackle mobile phone security.

I was very excited by this potential project at the time. It was a brief set and co-funded by the UK Design Council, Technology Strategy Board and the Home Office ‘to research and develop a solution that tackles mobile phone security‘. I had enthusiastically brainstormed some ideas in anticipation of entering the challenge as part of a design team at a consultancy I was freelancing for at the time. Unfortunately it went no further but here’s what it was all about anyway along with some seeds of ideas and explanatory thinking.

 

The challenge:

• Making mobile phone handsets harder or less desirable to steal.

• Making the data stored on mobile phones harder or less desirable to steal.

• Making future m-commerce transactions secure and fraud proof.

Thought 1. Biometric data log

Thought 2. High-visiblilty security

Thought 3. Remote self-destruct

A recent (2009) survey found that only 4 in 10 people currently lock their mobiles using a pin. This idea is simply for a convenient biometric-enabled phone (perhaps integrated within the touchscreen) that negates the need to actively confirm your identity with a pin each time you wish to use it. What makes it convenient is that it is passive so no excuse not to use it.

 

Taking this one step further, could the phone also keep a data log of the most recent access attempts, including that of a thief? In the event of a theft, the biometric data log could be retrieved remotely by the service provider (or perhaps the user). There may be privacy issues here but the idea was inspired by the occasional stories I saw in the paper about Apple Macbook users playing detective and remotely accessing their stolen laptops and taking a photo of the thief via the webcam to then pass on to the police, helping to identify and potentially prosecute the thief.

 

It was also partly inspired by my experience working on various wearable healthcare/fitness/wellness activity monitoring devices. The first one I worked on (in 2007) had algorithms that could accurately identify whether you were walking on grass, sand or pavement based on how your gait subtly changed. Using biometric gait recognition could be an interesting way to passively lock down unauthorised possession where the gait signature does not match the owner of the phone.

Thought 4. Security benchmark

What are the worst offending phones in terms of security? How would you know? This is an idea for a system of rating phones to bring awareness of phone security to consumers so that it enters into consideration when purchasing. In turn such publicly visible security benchmarking would help to encourage mobile phone companies to do more to address the issue. This thinking stemmed from the security ratings you see when you buy a bike lock or the NCAP safety ratings for vehicles. Other analogies includefood labelling on packaging.

Thought 7. Phone forcefield

Here’s a silly picture that’s all about behaviour change and improvisation. I always have my phone on the table in the pub because I don’t like having it in my pocket and I always end up missing calls and messages. Such an easy target on display is not advisable from a security perspective. However, by putting it under a pint glass, I can still keep an eye on it but any criminal would need the sleight of hand of a magician to steal it from under my nose without me or anyone else noticing. (I think). It’s a similar line of thinking as putting your chair leg over a bag strap so that it cannot be picked up without you knowing.

At the moment, phones that are reported stolen are blacklisted on a database (using the IMEI, of which only 17m of 70m phones are registered –– 2009). This thought was about trying to find a means to make a stolen phone clearly recognisable as stolen to try and reduce the resale potential (through associated social stigma) i.e. a phone that overtly communicates/flaunts its security status. For example, this would be achieveable if made with an electrochromic polymer that could be remotely activated to (irreversibly?) change colour if stolen. If all stolen phones, or even just a particular brand of phone, became known to change to a specifically defined stigmatising colour, for example bright yellow, would you want to be seen with one? (It’s not foolproof –– a criminal could of course get around it by painting over it or keeping the phone hidden in a case).

 

You could also flip this thinking the other way and have the phone change colour to communicate (to a potential thief) from distance that it is secure and locked by the owner. If a thief sees an opportunity to steal a phone but also sees that the owner keeps it locked (because it is bright green for example) then it may be enough of a deterrent to make the thief think twice and look for an alternative, easier target that is unlocked. It's a similar train of thought to the fresh food label that visibly changes to overtly communicate freshness.

Thought 5. Power lock

As mentioned in the biometric data log idea, only 4 out of 10 people currently lock their mobiles using a pin. This is due in part to inconvenience. With this idea, you are always asked to enter a pin when the mobile is plugged into a power source for charging or data transfer. This limits the life of the stolen phone because it can only be charged if the pin is known. This means that the potential for exploitation by the thief is limited by the battery life, while also limiting the resale potential of the phone.

Thought 8. Two-man rule

This idea is based on my uninformed assumption that even if you report your stolen phone to the network operator, they cannot ‘freeze’ any m-commerce credit like they can for your calls and therefore the thief is free to still spend your remaining credit? This idea is about introducing a condition that the phone needs to be receiving a signal in order to make an m-commerce transaction. If the phone has been blocked (via IMEI) then the criminal won’t be able to spend the credit. The downside is the 1 in 100 situation when you legitimately want to buy something and you’re in a reception black-spot. In this instance, the rightful owner would then need to verify with alternative means such as a passcode.

A digression from the high-visibility security thought was this idea for a self-destruct phone based on something like active disassembly (AD) technology. Normally this is applied in a sustainability context to make products easier to quickly take apart for separation and recycling. Here, I was thinking it could serve the purpose of making the phone redundant after theft, to again reduce any resale value. Much like you can remotely wipe the contents of the phone, with an AD phone we can go one step further and remotely trigger the mouldings to come apart making the phone unusable. Of course this only has maximum value as a deterrent if a particular phone manufacturer applies this feature across all their phones making their brand one for thieves to avoid. The idea was inspired by security measures like ink tags on clothing that damage/destroy the clothing when removal is attempted.

Thought 6. Service alert call capping

There are common stories of phones getting stolen and thieves running up hundreds or thousands of pounds worth of service charges up until the point that the user notifies the network operator of the theft and the phone is locked down. So, this idea is for a service, (maybe even through a third party app rather than the network operator), that prevents the thief exceeding the monthly tariff. To make calls that are not covered on your tariff, you are prompted to enter a password to verify your identity. They could also be asked to enter a password to continue in instances where unusual call patterns are being made. In short, this is to try and ensure that the user does not incur excessive charges in addition to their monthly tariff. Banks monitor your purchasing behaviour to try and flag up fraudulent activity. Why can’t network operators be a little more helpful and do the same?

Thought 9. IMEI cross-check

Each phone has the IMEI stored electronically. They also have it printed on a label for visual checking –– which is found under the battery on my phone. Could this paper label also be an RFID label that could be used to help authenticate the IMEI number? The phone would periodically checks its IMEI against the RFID label. If the phone is cloned by a criminal, then the new IMEI number won’t match the RFID label and it would therefore automatically lock the phone (or perhaps erase the data).

 

This idea is simply about enabling the RFID label to cross-check with the electronic record as a means of verification to reduce the ability of criminals to clone phones. A criminal would now need to also produce a new RFID label to successfully clone a phone. This would be incredibly difficult if an electronic fingerprinting RFID anti-counterfeiting technology is used, such as the world's first uncloneable RFID chip launched last year (2008).

2006 –– Cup-counter kettle

Behaviour change addressing the need for greater water conservation and efficiency.

The thinking behind this concept revolves around our almost inherent tendency to habitually overfill the kettle (i.e. boiling more water than is needed). Apparently two-thirds of us boil on average twice the amount of water that we actually need. The wasted energy boiling an overfilled kettle in just one week is said to be enough to power a TV for a whole day.

 

So, the idea was to try and provide more meaningful and obvious ‘water-volume feedback’ in a way that users are fully conscious of and can actively respond to. Therefore, we say goodbye to the traditional water gauge on the side of the kettle. Replacing this is a simple array of LED 'cup counter' indicators positioned in a very visible and convenient position on the top of the kettle making it front-of-mind. The indicators are supplemented by an audible signal. Each LED is representative of a single-cup unit of measure rather than ambiguous litres. (1 LED equals 1 cup, 2 LEDs equals 2 cups etc.). Load cells and an algorithm provide an accurate indication of the water volume based on weight, as the kettle is filled.

2004 –– Informative alarm clock

Combining a clean and minimal form factor with a simple and informative interface.

Mobile phones have drastically affected the market for alarm clocks so this is a bit of a niche, redundant product now. I simply wanted an alarm clock that suited my own aesthetic tastes and preferences. I've always felt it would be useful if alarm clocks would actually display the alarm time alongside the actual time, and if there's space, why not show the date too. Aside from that, I added a large, obvious, tactile on/off button. Simple.

Ian Dera Ltd is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 7599085. VAT Registration GB110746741.

© Copyright 2015 Ian Dera Limited